Domaine Berrien Rolls Out Kegs at Chicago’s Farmhouse
The first Illinois restaurant to offer Michigan wine by the keg is Farmhouse Tavern in Chicago which opened in September. Wine from Domaine Berrien Cellars in Berrien Springs, Michigan is brought to Farmhouse by Chicago based Fresh Coast Distributors in 20 litre recyclable “Key Kegs”. Wine stays fresh in the kegs for months because, according the manufacturer, oxygen pick up is less than 0.3 millgrams per litre over six months.
Wally Mauer, owner and winemaker at Domaine Berrien, said the Key Kegs, which are made by the Dutch packaging company of the same name, are easy to fill and use. “All I had to buy to use the keg was an inexpensive filling head,” Mauer said. Standard hoses and the winery’s bottling pump are the only other equipment needed according to Mauer, although he recommends using a pressure shut off valve set at 50 psi while filling the kegs.
From the restaurant’s perspective, the Kegs are also efficient. Existing carbon dioxide is used to pressurize the Key Kegs unlike some systems that use more expensive nitrogen. Kelly Kniewel, the COO at Fresh Coast Distributors, said that Farmhouse looked at stainless steel kegs but selected the plastic and aluminum foil laminate Key Kegs partially because they were less expensive. The recyclable kegs also eliminate the need for a return trip to the winery to be refilled.
Mauer said that he likes the cost saving associated with the kegs, but that’s not the main reason he supports their use. “Sure, there’s no labels, corks or bottles with the kegs, but the main benefit is sustainability,” Mauer said. “There’s a lot of bottles that aren’t in a landfill because of the those kegs at Farmhouse Tavern.”
Kniewel, who partnered with Farmhouse to find a local wine to feature on tap, said that the new restaurant located at 228 West Chicago Avenue and Domaine Berrien are a logical combination. “Farmhouse is the first restaurant in Chicago to offer Michigan wine on tap and Domaine Berrien is the only Michigan winery growing so many Rhone varietals,” she said. Currently, Farmhouse serves Domaine Berrien’s estate grown Marsanne and Merlot on tap. Kniewel said that the red wine is currently selling at one keg every 10 days and the white is selling at a keg a week. (A Key Keg holds 5 gallons of wine.) Kniewel also said that the restaurant blends the two tap wines to make sangria.
While serving regional draft wine is a new idea in many parts of the Midwest, the concept is well established for New York wines produced on Long Island and the Finger Lakes. The internet wine publication “New York Cork Report” reports that a keg wine company in New York called Gotham Project is moving about 250 kegs of regional wine a month into the New York metro area. Much of the keg wine in New York City is being sold at “trendy locavore spots known as much for their cutting edge attitudes as their culinary prowess,” according to a recent New York Times article.